Thursday, 3 July 2014

LinkedIn: How to coach an entrepreneur

By Dennis Roberts Author | Speaker | Coach at The Rise of the Feminine
July 01, 2014 

Entrepreneurs are some of the most challenging yet rewarding clients a professional coach may attract. They possess unique traits and if understood and appreciated can make for the most rewarding coach/client relationship. Many coaches fail to appreciate the unique qualities of an entrepreneur and how to approach the client relationship.

What are the common traits of an entrepreneur? 

The entrepreneur is a different animal to your average coaching client. They are futurists and have the capacity to see opportunities where others cannot. They are highly creative and are strategic thinkers. They operate best free of constraints. They are impulsive and risk takers. The opportunity will often outweigh the risk. Their impetuosity and spontaneity often leaving a trail for others to clean up. They love to have multiple ideas or projects on the go. They thrive on starting things and can quickly become bored. They often work best alone. They move at a rapid pace. They may experience frustration if those around them cannot keep up.

What common mistakes do coaches make with entrepreneurs? 

Don’t try to change them or slow them down 

Successful coaches appreciate the entrepreneur for who they are and don’t try to change them. Let them run and get out of their way. Watch and learn. They move at such rapid pace they may omit to consider risks or challenges. Help them expand their thinking, use brainstorming techniques, run scenarios, add clarity and detail to the vision, identify blind spots.

Preserve balance and sustainability 

In their haste the entrepreneur may neglect basic aspects of their lives, eg diet, exercise, relationships, birthdays. Watch out for sustained periods of neglect. They are optimists and masters of illusion. Look for hidden signs of stress. The entrepreneur has the capacity to make small things big things – both opportunities and problems. Call it gearing. A good coach will realise this and role-play whatever role is appropriate. This is an art.

Respect their creativity and risk threshold 

Entrepreneurs have a high threshold for risk. Accept it and work with them. You may need to be the flexible one. Their tolerance for risk, not yours, should determine the basis for strategies and objectives. Entrepreneurs love to brainstorm ideas. They also love to talk. So, let them. Coaching is about listening. Entrepreneurs want someone to listen and respond enthusiastically to their ideas. They seek positive reinforcement.

What advice would you give to public practitioners dealing with entrepreneurs? 

Much of the above is also true for the professional advisor. There is one basic distinction. True coaches will not give advice. They will facilitate self-discovery through questioning techniques. Professional advisors such as accountants are expected to give professional advice. They are subject matter experts and required to interpret the law and share their knowledge. Remember entrepreneurs are the decision makers so offer them your considered opinion and let them decide. Give them options.

Be proactive 

Entrepreneurs move fast. They subject themselves to risks and make frequent decisions. They do not and cannot know everything. They place a premium value on astute professional advisors who can give them considered opinion proactively and foresee scenarios or risk exposure they cannot.

Be accessible and responsive 

When entrepreneurs want an answer they want it now. They make rapid fire decisions and have short concentration spans. They don’t want to dwell on the detail. Big picture, clear guidance, fast turnaround.

Service focus 

Tune into what your client wants. Take time to learn how they tick. Be flexible with your communication style to accommodate your client. They talk fast, you talk fast. They want succinct information, give it to them. They want options, run scenarios. They expect you to be there when they need you not return my call two days later.

Questions are the answers 

Learn how to listen. Learn how to ask powerful questions. The techniques of a skilled coach are just as relevant for an accountant or sales professional. Ask open questions, eg what, where, when, how. Practise questioning techniques such as probing, clarifying, paraphrasing, summarising.

Restate commitments 

Once you have reached agreement with your client, repeat it back to them for clarity, “So, it is my understanding that you want me to submit your tax return by Monday, 31 July, is that correct?” or “My expectation is that you will sign and return the contract to me by Wednesday, is that reasonable?”

Real-time information 

Nothing irritates an entrepreneur more than old information. Time is money. They want both lead indicators (prospects, conversion rates, average sales, purchase frequency) and lag indicators (customers, sales, profits) in their management reports. Sales pipelines are essential management information.

System and structure 

The entrepreneur needs system and structure. They often aren’t the best person to deliver it. That’s why they hire a coach, personal assistant, consultant or accountant. Coaching an entrepreneur is an exhilarating and rewarding experience. It can be a roller coaster ride and is never a dull moment. Supporting them in your role as a public practitioner can be just as rewarding. So, get yourself ready and hang on for the ride of your life.

by Dennis Roberts, published on LinkedIn

Monday, 16 December 2013

Why executive coaching is worth $500 an hour

By Christopher Mims, December 15, 2013

The most comprehensive and rigorous meta-analysis of professional coaching ever conducted was just published in print, and the results are unambiguous: Coaching in a businesses context “has significant positive effects on performance and skills, well-being, coping, work attitudes, and goal-directed self-regulation.”

Writing in The Journal of Positive Psychology, Tim Theebooma, Bianca Beersmaa and Annelies E.M. van Vianena of the Department of Work and Organizational Psychology at the University of Amsterdam conclude that “In general… coaching is an effective tool for improving the functioning of individuals in organizations.” That’s good news, considering that, as the authors note, coaching is a $3 billion a year industry worldwide, and, as the Harvard Business Review estimated, the median rate for an executive coach is $500 an hour.

Theebooma et al. are so thorough in their analysis that they spend large sections of their paper outlining the flaws of many of the studies of the effectiveness of coaching, and their discursive style, while dense, yields a number of important takeaways.

But we don’t know why coaching works
Plenty of studies have established, to one degree or another, that coaching makes people measurably more effective at their jobs, yielding a quantifiable, positive return on investment for most investments in coaching. But there is a great deal of variability between studies in terms of how effective coaching can be. Is this because some coaches are better than others? Because some employees are more amenable to coaching or to different styles of coaching, than others? (There is even a term in the psychological literature for this trait: “coachability.”)

The authors elaborate: “Future research could investigate whether solution-focused coaching is indeed more effective than other coaching approaches and whether specific coaching effects also depend on significance and/or complexity of coaches’ problems.” By borrowing from fields with deep pools of literature, such as mentoring, training, therapy and education, the authors argue that professional coaches could begin to figure out which aspects of what they’re doing are particularly effective.

For example, effective coaching may be, like good therapy, primarily a product of the connection between the coach and coachee: “Recent work in the field of executive coaching indeed suggests that non-specific factors such as understanding, encouraging, and listening behaviors of the coach may be better predictors of coaching effectiveness than specific factors such as the coaching methodology.” 

Of course, coaching is a highly subjective experience, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The authors note that while many studies of the outcomes of coaching rely on self-reported results (versus evaluations by the coach or by others working with the person being coached) there is evidence from other areas of psychology that simply believing that a therapeutic intervention is working—whether that’s mentoring, teaching, psychotherapy or coaching—inspires a positive feedback mechanism that is key to the kind of deep, lasting, underlying behavioral change that is the goal of most coaching. So when choosing a coach, a good rule of thumb could simply be: Does this person make me feel more effective?

Monday, 30 September 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson. Coach Extraordinaire...

Some call him the greatest coach in history. Before retiring in May 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson spent 26 seasons as the manager of Manchester United, the English football (soccer) club that ranks among the most successful and valuable franchises in sports. During that time the club won 13 English league titles along with 25 other domestic and international trophies—giving him an overall haul nearly double that of the next-most-successful English club manager. And Ferguson was far more than a coach. He played a central role in the United organization, managing not just the first team but the entire club. “Steve Jobs was Apple; Sir Alex Ferguson is Manchester United,” says the club’s former chief executive David Gill. In 2012 Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse had a unique opportunity to examine Ferguson’s management approach and developed an HBS case study around it. Now she and Ferguson have collaborated on an analysis of his enormously successful methods.

Alex Ferguson was known as one of the most challenging and uncompromising coaches, and this approach led to huge success. The 8 lessons identified in the HBR are very interesting and quite apt... :

1. Start with the foundation. Centres of excellence were created for promising young players. Sir Alex said “The job of a manager … is to inspire people to be better.” Probably the only EPL manager who tried this seriously.

2. Dare to rebuild your team. Sir Alex constantly looked to rebuild the team and said “… we tried to visualise the three or four years ahead…”

3. Set high standards, and hold everyone accountable to them. Sir Alex demanded his players worked extremely hard, and never be satisfied. He is famous for letting stars go for not giving it their all.

4. Never, ever cede control. Ferguson responded quickly and forcefully, maintaining control, e.g. sacking or selling star players if they became a negative influence. He said “It doesn’t matter if the person is the best player in the world. The long-term view of the club is more important than the individual.” Hmmm...

5. Match the message to the momenttailor your words to the moment. Ferguson varied his approach saying “You can’t always come in shouting and screaming. That doesn’t work.” On feedback Ferguson says “Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement.”

6. Prepare to win through regular practice and repetition of skills. Sir Alex said “If we were down – say 1-2 – with 15 minutes to go, I was ready to take more risks.”

7. Rely on the power of observation. My favourite one, and resonates in our coaching practice as well. Over time Ferguson switched from hands on coaching to observing. “What you pick up by watching is incredibly valuable.” 

8. Never stop adapting, Ferguson said “I believe you control change by accepting it … The most important thing is to not stagnate”.

Hindu Business Line: Games Executive Coaches Play

Good article, on the "games" some coaches play. And like the typical "game" in TA, the play is often unconscious and repetitive. It is critical for Coaches to recognise and work towards overcoming the same...

By C.Mahalingam

Executive coaching has caught up big time in India. There is a realisation that leadership talent is in short supply and that playing a ‘buy’ strategy has serious limitations. The focus, therefore, has shifted to a ‘build’ strategy where organisations are investing in setting up leadership academies for grooming a cadre of internal leadership bench. Senior leaders are called upon to invest their time at these academies sharing their “teachable points of view” to the high potential internal candidates so that they can be prepared for higher responsibilities. Leadership competency frameworks are leveraged to focus the development and assessment/development centres are used to do the assessment that forms the basis for fast-track development.
It is now fairly well-established that people development follows a certain pattern. No more than 10 per cent of development is attributed to class-room training. Almost 70 per cent of learning happens through mentoring on the job or other work-related assignments. This leaves us with 20 per cent of development that happens through relationship-based strategies, such as mentoring and coaching. It is in this context that coaching has assumed importance in organisations. A few organisations have the foresight to build coaching competence internally as they have clear expectations from their managers that they double up as coaches. Managers as coaches are very powerful but managers need systematic training and role-plays before they can shift gears between the roles of a manager and a coach.


Senior managers who are being groomed for higher responsibilities are given the benefit of external executive coaches, who reach a clear understanding with the sponsoring organisation and the executive to be coached on the developmental need and focus their coaching around the same. Usually coaching contracts for such purposes are for six months and sometimes longer. They key success factors for such intervention to work would be (a) clear understanding of the developmental need; and (b) if the need so identified is something that coaching can address. The overarching success factor is the right choice of the executive coach.
Over the last two years, we have seen a dozen or more executive coaching certification/credentialing organisations that have come up in India to fill the gap in helping create a competent cadre of trained executive coaches. Their efforts are laudable. However, a caveat would be in order at this juncture. Not only in India, but even globally, it is both interesting and worrying to stomach the fact that these institutes have rarely ever failed any candidate, who has enrolled for the program. In other words, anyone who enrols rolls out as successful! This leaves the onus completely on the corporate house to discern the “men from the boys.” Executive coaching is an expensive developmental intervention not just in terms of coaching fees, but the opportunity cost of six months of time being spent by the coachee.
The author, himself an executive coach, has been a keen observer of what is going on in this wonder world of executive coaching. Borne out of this observation and conversation with corporate houses is this discovery that if not done carefully, executive coaching can turn out to be frustrating for the coachee and an investment wasted for the sponsoring organisation. Coaching is a craft and not just an art and science. Great coaches are trained, get their unique value from rich experience and keep the coachee’s interest uppermost in their mind. While training provides them with useful frameworks and dos and don’ts of coaching, effective coaches bring value through their intelligent and practical approach to helping the coachee overcome their challenges.


Like with any growing profession, coaching has its challenges. The biggest challenge is when coaches play games without realising they do. This arises out of lack of strong fundamentals in coaching. With credentials as a license, they unleash these games on the unsuspecting coachees. I have captured many such interesting “games that coaches may play” and how organisations can guard against such possibilities by carefully screening potential coaches and by periodical review once a coach has been signed up.
Traffic cop: This game emanates from the psychological disposition of the coach that “I’m only trying to help.” The manifestation of this game is through generous suggestions to try this or try that from the coach drawing upon either their experience or extensive ‘Googling’ on the net. Professional coaching is anything but prescriptive, although an occasional tip in the form of “have you thought about this possibility” is permissible to break a situation of “impasse” or “no noticeable progress.”
Psychiatrick: Coaches are not psychiatric professionals. And there may be occasions when the coach recognises (hopefully) that the coachee may need professional help from qualified counsellors or psychiatrists. Ideally, this is recognised right at the beginning of the “getting to know” discussions and professional coaches stay out of a coaching contract once they recognise the need for a referral to a professional help. This game plays out when the coach assumes the role of a psychiatrist and begins to “treat the coachee” with his “techniques”. This causes more damage than good.
Cheery-blossom: This game is all about the coach believing and communicating to the coachee that everything is “bright and shiny.” A coaching contract has been entered into because the sponsor believes that the coachee needs help. Positive reinforcements are needed from time to time but based on progress made. Half-baked coaches take to this game just to create a sense of “feel-good” so that the coachee may report positive impact of coaching to the sponsor. Eventually, this leads to frustration for the coachee, who reports to the sponsor what the coach least wanted — that the coaching was a waste!
War hero: When coaching conversations drift from the a meaningful course and move into the coach reeling out how they solved the problem of Mr X or Ms Y and this happens meeting after meeting, this game is in full play. War stories are shared, which are of interest initially, but become a burden for the coachee eventually as the coachees are interested in their challenge being addressed and not stories of how coaches solved the world’s miseries!

Forbes: 5 Things To Look For When Choosing An Executive Coach

Forbes came up out recently with a timely article on 5 Things To Look For When Choosing An Executive Coach. For us, this has been a key question we have answered often, and well. Happy that we can tick off all five check-boxes!

by Erika Andersen

Over the past week, four different colleagues sent me a link to the same Stanford study about executive coaching – and two other people mentioned it to me as well.  Boiled down, the study shows that not many CEOs are being coached, and that most would like to have that opportunity.

It makes complete sense that people would have sent this to me: High-level executive coaching is one of our core offers at Proteus, and I’ve been a leadership coach for many years.  Interestingly, though, this has never happened before – people very occasionally send me links to articles or posts about coaching, but having a bunch of people mention/direct me to a particular resource: brand new.

I think this flurry of referring happened partly because this study is a particularly compelling and well-researched chunk of information, and the Stanford name adds cachet.  I also believe people sent it to me because they felt we could use it to market the value of coaching (which we can).

But I think it’s mostly because this study demonstrates that executive coaching has finally become legitimate.  Stanford is doing studies on it: CEOs want it. My colleagues find it exciting to have data showing that so many executives recognize the benefits of and want the opportunity to engage with a coach.

For those of us who are practitioners, and who believe in the (potential) efficacy of coaching, it’s an important and long-awaited moment. Just to provide some context, here’s my quick and dirty summary of the evolution of executive coaching in the US over the past 25 years:
  • Late 1980s: “A coach? What’s a coach?”
  • Early 1990s: “A coach? You mean, like…a corporate shrink?”
  • Mid-to-late 1990s: “A coach? Am I in trouble?”
  • Early 2000s: “A coach? Thanks – I think. ”
  • Mid-to-late 2000s: “A coach? Great!”
  • Now: “A coach? How long can I work with him/her – and do I get to choose the one I want?”
In other words, the good new is that most corporate executives now see coaching as an investment their organization is making in their success, and are even beginning to become informed consumers. The bad news is that, as with anything that gets popular, there are now many many people jumping on the coaching bandwagon, hanging out their shingle and offering themselves as executive coaches.

It’s really the wild wild West.  Anyone can claim to be a coach.  Just a few weeks ago, a client of mind told me that her HR had person recommended a ‘coach’ for one of their executives, someone who said he’d been doing “executive development” for over a decade.  I actually knew the guy: he had been an HR generalist – a good one – and had certainly counseled employees informally on many occasions.  A qualified executive coach?  I think not.

So, since there aren’t really any universally agreed-upon standards for executive coaching at this point, how do you know what “good” looks like?  If you’re fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to work with a coach, here are 5 qualities to look for that will help to assure it’s a great investment..rather than a huge waste of time and money:

Clarity about the process: Really skilled coaches will be able to walk you through their process.  That process should include helping you define your core challenges, see where you’re starting from, and where you want to go.  It’s also essential that they can describe how you’ll learn new skills and behaviors, and how they’ll support you to transfer those skills back to work. If the coach is evasive, telling you that it’s “hard to quantify” or “up to you,” or if he or she is all enthusiasm and no practicality (“people love it!”  “It’s life-changing!”  It will galvanize you to be your best!”), it’s a good bet there will be no there there.

More than your point of view:  A good coach will tell you that his or her approach includes gathering feedback about you from those who work with you most and ‘patterning’ that feedback to draw a clear picture of how you’re seen by them, and then working with you to decide the areas where the two of you can have the greatest positive impact on how you’re viewed, your capabilities and your success.  If the coach doesn’t include feedback from those around you, that’s a problem; we all have blind spots, and it’s important for you and the coach to get a sense of how others see you and interact with you.

Real skills: If a coach, when asked how he or she will help you, says, “I’m a sounding board,” or “we can talk through the things that keep you up at night,” or “I’m the person who’s on your side,” odds are that you could have some interesting and/or moderately useful conversations with this person – but he or she won’t do much to help you grow. Great coaches will let you know that they can offer you useful new skills, awareness and knowledge, and help you integrate what you’ve learned into your day-to-day life.  They will be able to describe very specifically how they have worked with others to improve their leadership, management, and or business operating capabilities.

Confidentiality: This is huge.  I recently spoke with an executive who started working with a coach provided by her organization – and later found out that person was sharing everything that happened during her coaching sessions with her boss and the head of HR.  Good coaches make very clear agreements about confidentiality upfront with their coachees, and they keep those agreements.  If a coach is at all evasive or unclear about what’s being shared and what’s held in confidence, or if you find out that he or she has shared confidential information – please end the engagement.  Working with this person could materially damage your career. 

Actual success: Effective coaching enables clients to be better at their jobs, and to create the future they want for themselves.  Good coaches help their clients get clearer about how they can best contribute to their organization’s success, and then to achieve better results and become more highly promotable (if that’s what they want). If a coach can’t point to actual coachees who have improved in demonstrable ways as a result of being coached….why are you thinking about working with them?

Having an executive coach can be enormously helpful.  A good coach can help you see yourself more accurately; get clear about how to best play to your strengths; and grow in the highest leverage and most feasible ways.  He or she will be illuminating, strengthening and trustworthy.  Make the choice carefully and you’ll benefit for years to come.

For more information on our Executive Coaching practice, contact us!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Forbes: The Thinker Interview: Marshall Goldsmith, by Neelima Mahajan, CKGSB

by Neelima Mahajan | CKGSB | Oct 22, 2012

Marshall Goldsmiths brand of leadership appeals to everyone from corporate CEOs to the lay man. What makes him so popular?

At first glance, Marshall Goldsmith, a bald, sprightly man with icy blue eyes, a fringe of white hair and ears that stick out, looks like a pixie. He darts around the room with the energy of a two-year-old. It’s fun to watch him walk – not an easy walk to imitate. When he teaches, he bounces from one end of the room to another, while his head stays stiffly in place and his arms straight. On most days, you’ll find him wearing a green Polo shirt and khaki pants, his trademark attire somewhat akin to Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck and blue jeans. His face breaks into an easy smile as he talks about his favorite subject, leadership and executive coaching. The words ‘no’, ‘but’ and ‘however’ do not exist in his vocabulary and if you make the grave mistake of mentioning any of these words in front of him, he’ll probably grab your hand mid-sentence and reprimand you for that.

When you meet him the first time, it’s hard to take him seriously–and easy to dismiss his teachings as cloying, and him as just another self-help guru. But when you look deeper, you’ll realize there is more to him than meets the eye. Goldsmith has the CEOs of many Fortune 500 companies eating out of his hands. People like Ford CEO Alan Mulally swear by him and pay through their nose to have some face time with him. He has worked as a consultant for companies like 3M, IBM, Philips and American Express. Over the years, Goldsmith, one of the world’s foremost executive coaches and a “philosophical and psychological Buddhist” by his own admission, has built a stellar reputation in the leadership firmament and rubs shoulders with the likes of superstar coaches like Ram Charan and Gary Ranker. He was ranked among the top five executive coaches according to Forbes magazine, and has consistently featured in the Thinkers 50, a ranking of business and management thought leaders.

More here:

Forbes: The Key To Effective Coaching

Center for Creative Leadership

Candice Frankovelgia, 04.28.10, 12:37 PM ET

Business coaching has gone from fad to fundamental. Leaders and organizations have come to understand how valuable it can be, and they're adding "the ability to coach and develop others" to the ever-growing list of skills they require in all their managers. In theory, this means more employee development, more efficiently conducted. But in reality, few managers know how to make coaching work.

According to the 2010 Executive Coaching Survey, conducted by the Conference Board, 63% of organizations use some form of internal coaching, and half of the rest plan to. Yet coaching is a small part of the job description for most managers. Nearly half spend less than 10% of their time coaching others.

With such limited time devoted to coaching, organizations need to be sure their managers know how to do it right. To improve the quality and impact of your coaching efforts, start by giving your individual managers tangible information about how to coach their direct reports. Typically, managers meet their coaching obligations by giving reviews, holding occasional meetings and offering advice. For coaching to be effective, they need to understand why they are coaching and what specific actions they need to take.

Coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.

Broadly speaking, the purpose is to increase effectiveness, broaden thinking, identify strengths and development needs and set and achieve challenging goals. Research from the Center for Creative Leadership has boiled down the skills managers need to coach others into five categories:

1) Building the relationship. It's easier to learn from someone you trust. Coaches must effectively establish boundaries and build trust by being clear about the learning and development objectives they set, showing good judgment, being patient and following through on any promises and agreements they make.

2) Providing assessment. Where are you now and where do you want to go? Helping others to gain self-awareness and insight is a key job for a coach. You provide timely feedback and help clarify the behaviors that an employee would like to change. Assessment often focuses on gaps or inconsistencies, on current performance vs. desired performance, words vs. actions and intention vs. impact.

3) Challenging thinking and assumptions. Thinking about thinking is an important part of the coaching process. Coaches ask open-ended questions, push for alternative solutions to problems and encourage reasonable risk-taking.

4) Supporting and encouraging. As partners in learning, coaches listen carefully, are open to the perspectives of others and allow employees to vent emotions without judgment. They encourage employees to make progress toward their goals, and they recognize their successes.

5) Driving results. What can you show for it? Effective coaching is about achieving goals. The coach helps the employee set meaningful ones and identify specific behaviors or steps for meeting them. The coach helps to clarify milestones or measures of success and holds the employee accountable for them.

You should seed your organization with coaching role models. All managers need some guidance on the whys and hows of coaching, but most organizations can't afford to train them on a large scale, so the least you can do is make an effort to create a culture of coaching. The key is to create a pool of manager-coaches who can be role models, supporters and sustainers of a coaching mindset.

When you select the right people and invest in their development and position them as coaching advocates, you plant the seeds for expanding coaching well beyond the individual manager-direct report relationship. Your role models demonstrate effective coaching both formally and informally, and they help motivate others to use and improve their own coaching capabilities.

Always link the purpose and results of coaching to the business. Managers have to know the business case for coaching and developing others if they're to value it and use it effectively. Where is the business headed? What leadership skills are needed to get us there? How should coaches work with direct reports to provide the feedback, information and experiences they need to build those needed skills? Set strategic coaching goals, tactics and measures for the organization as well as including coaching as an individual metric.

Finally, give it time. It's not surprising that managers feel they don't have enough time for coaching. Even if you make learning and coaching explicit priorities, time is tight for everyone. But as your coaching processes and goals become more consistent and more highly valued, in-house coaching will take root. Your managers will have a new way to develop and motivate their direct reports. Individuals and groups will strive to build new skills and achieve goals. And your business will be on track to a more efficient, comprehensive system of developing people.

Candice Frankovelgia is the coaching portfolio manager for the Center for Creative Leadership.